Many people use the terms “go-to-market (GTM) strategy” and “product launch” interchangeably. But that reveals a misunderstanding of what each term means. The two things are definitely related, but they’re not the same.
For product marketers, understanding the distinction between a product launch and GTM strategy matters. And making sure that others in your organization understand it as well can help them gain a better understanding of the role of product marketing—something many product marketers say their colleagues still struggle with.
How is a GTM strategy different from a product launch?
Two main things distinguish a GTM strategy from a product launch.
First, a GTM strategy can be applied to a number of scenarios including, but not limited to, creating and launching a new product. For example, a business may want to employ a GTM strategy if they’ve decided to try pivoting their marketing strategy to a new audience, or when they’re releasing a new version of the product that includes different features and functionality than the previous one.
The second thing that distinguishes a GTM strategy from a product launch is its scope. When a GTM strategy is created for a new product, the launch will be part of the larger strategy—but one part of many. A GTM strategy includes more steps and a longer timeline than the product launch itself.
What is a Product Launch?
A product launch is the specific part of a GTM strategy that’s all about getting the completed product out into the world. A successful product launch ensures that the right people—your target audience—encounters compelling messaging that generates interest in your product. It’s a part of the process that’s heavy on marketing and PR.
Product Launch FAQs
That’s the high-level definition, but to give you an idea of what a product launch looks like in practice, here are several of the most common product launch FAQs answered.
1. What do you need to get started with a product launch?
Before you get to the point of launching a product, you need to cover a few important bases—most of them included in a GTM strategy:
- A product idea – Every great product starts with an idea. Before you can tackle all the other steps here, you need some concept of what you’ll be selling. What will it look like? What features or functionality will it include? What problems do you think it solves?
- A defined audience – Once you have a product concept, you need to clarify who it’s for. Use audience research to identify the people most likely to want your product. Work to understand who they are, what they care about, and how they spend their time.
- Market analysis – Research the larger industry your product fits into. How big is the market? What market trends can you identify?
- Competitive analysis – Customers rarely make a decision to buy a product without taking time to do research into their options. In order to make a compelling case for your product, you need to thoroughly understand what those other options are by doing competitor research.
- Pricing strategy – Deciding on pricing is another prerequisite before a launch. Figure out what it makes sense to charge and what pricing structure to go with.
- Messaging and positioning – All that advance research will help you figure out how best to position your product in the market based on the problems it solves for your audience, and how it compares to the competition. Establish clear messaging that will make a persuasive case to your audience.
- A completed product – And finally, you need a product that’s ready for prime time. Before the launch can happen, you should be confident that the product’s ready and will accomplish what you claim.
2. What’s usually included in a product launch?
Once all those elements are in place, you’re ready to get to work on the product launch itself. A product launch typically includes a few main elements:
- A launch calendar – Create a timeline to guide you and keep you on track through the course of your launch. You may not end up following it exactly, but having an idea of what you want to accomplish by when establishes deadlines that will motivate your team to get the work done.
- A soft/beta launch – The research leading up to the product launch will tell you a lot about who your audience is, what their needs are, and what your product needs to do to help them. But up until the point where your product is in the hands of the people you built it for, you’re making educated guesses. Including a beta launch in your product launch plans gives you a chance to release the product to a small group of people and collect feedback from them. Then you can learn how well the product works for them, and collect data on how effective your messaging is as well.
- An initial marketing plan for your launch – The main goal of a product launch is reaching the right people with news of your product. That’s where marketing comes in. Before you announce the product, craft a strategy for which marketing channels to use to promote your new product, what messaging to employ in each, and a calendar for doing it all.
- A big announcement – When everything else is in place, announce your new product to the world. Issue a press release, Update the information on your website. Email your list. Get the word out in all the channels you can think of.
- An initial promotional push – Beyond the announcement, work on a general promotion push. Put that marketing plan into action. Work to reach your audience across platforms, with your content, on your social feeds, in your marketing emails, and with ads.
The specific details of your product launch will depend on what your research reveals about your audience and market. But the general bones of what’s included will look similar to this.
3. Who’s typically involved in a product launch?
Executing a product launch successfully requires involving all the right people. In most cases, that will include five main departments:
- Product marketing – The product marketing team is usually the main driving force behind a product launch, crafting the strategy and working to connect the other departments involved.
- Product team – The people designing the product need to be closely involved as well. They’re the biggest experts on what the product does, and the ones capable of making it better based on early feedback.
- Sales – Your sales team has an important role to play in helping you understand the audience you want to reach, identifying the best people to contact for beta testing, and getting your first customers to make the decision to buy.
- Marketing/PR – Your marketing team and PR department or agency will help you get your messaging out to the right audience, and figure out how to refine your message based on early results.
- Customer Service – The customer service team needs to be trained and prepared to deal with support inquiries for the new product. They should be looped in early, and provided all the product information they need to do their jobs well.
4. Why is a product launch plan important?
A product launch plan ensures that you’re organized and prepared as soon as your product’s ready to start selling it. Even the most amazing product could end up as a dud if the right people don’t hear about it, or if they aren’t persuaded to try it when they do first learn about it. A product launch strategy is how you avoid that fate.
By putting careful thought into how to present your new product and to whom, you’ll gain momentum in your early days on the market. That can make the difference between launching a successful product, or fizzling out before you even get started.
5. How do you measure the success of a product launch?
The best metrics to focus on when measuring the success of your product launch will always depend on your main goals. But a few possibilities that may help you determine how well your product launch has achieved its intentions include:
- Trials – If you’re providing a free trial period for your product, then every sign up shows your marketing, PR, and messaging is working.
- Purchases – Once people hear about your product, do they buy? If you’re getting a lot of trial sign ups that don’t lead to purchases, then you know your messaging is good, but the product still needs work.
- Feedback -Listening to customer feedback will be important for the life of the product, but it’s especially important in the early days. Actively encourage early testers and customers to share what they think. Measure success based on how many of them are quick to provide feedback (a sign of engagement no matter what the feedback is), and how much of it is positive.
- PR mentions -Mentions in the press, in relevant industry blogs, or by influencers in your space are great ways to build up excitement about your new product. This is a good measure of how wide-reaching your product launch is, and how successful your PR and marketing efforts are.
- Referrals – New customers are great, but referrals are even better. When customers recommend your product to their colleagues, they’re giving the best kind of positive reinforcement on how they feel about it. Consider setting up a referral program to track these, so you can include them in your metrics.
Planning a product launch isn’t the same thing as creating a GTM strategy, but it is an important part of many GTM strategies. And all the early steps of completing a GTM strategy for a new product are important for getting a product launch right.